FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ game with LSU on Saturday morning is in jeopardy despite everyone’s desire for it to be played.
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman recovered from COVID and returned to work yesterday. It’s no secret Arkansas is missing a lot of players due to a positive test or contact tracing concerning COVID. They took the final test this week at 11 a.m. today and will get the results back on Friday morning. Pittman was asked if he feels good about the team will have enough to play on Saturday?
“No, I don’t feel good about COVID,” Pittman said. “I mean, I think everybody’s looking for an answer and I’ll give you the answer: We’re going to play Saturday, as of right now. We’re going to play. We have a test that we took today that gets back tomorrow. I’m just going to tell you the truth, we’re running thin. We want to play the game. But you have to have adequate numbers to play the game and we are thin. If we have a good test tomorrow, then by golly we’re going to play the game. We want to play the game. We have not talked to our players one second about not playing the game because we want to play the game. They want to play, so as long as our numbers will allow us to play, that’s what we’re going to do. Are we thin? Yes.”
As far as his own battle with COVID, was it more therapeutic for him or the players for his return?
“Well, it was probably more therapeutic for me,” Pittman said. “The kids had Barry (Odom) and the staff running it while I was gone, so it was probably a little bit more for me than the kids.”
How did it feel to be back?
“It was awesome,” Pittman said. “That’s why you get into coaching to be around kids and your staff. it was wonderful. I got a new red door in my office. It was two glass doors and now it’s red so that kinda made me pumped up when I got in here today. That was kind of a surprise. I ordered a long time ago. I needed a little privacy and finally got my red door. So that exciting to get that too.”
While Pittman was back at practice yesterday, he talked about how they went this week with obviously reduced numbers.
“Well, practice has gone really good,” Pittman said. “It’s great to being back with the team yesterday and today. I thought Monday and Tuesday went well. The coaching staff ran the practices really well. The kids practiced hard. We’ve had to make a few adjustments but you injury wise you’d have to do that anyway. And so the practice has gone well.”
Sophomore Trey Knox played and started 11 games in 2019, but this season he has found the playing time hard to come by. He caught 28 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns last fall. This year he has caught four passes for 33 yards and barely played in some games. With the season-ending injury to De’Vion Warren Knox expects to play a lot more on Saturday.
“I can tell that he is excited about this week,” Pittman said. “Any time that you started and then you’re not necessarily starting or not playing near as much as you would, that’s hard. It’d be hard on a grown man. Very, very thankful for the way he handled it. I think he’s extremely excited about his opportunity this Saturday, as well as I am and our offensive staff. But, he’s shown a lot of maturity in this situation that was dealt to him.”
Knox and senior Tyson Morris are expected to get the bulk of Warren’s minutes.
“Both of them have had good practices,” Pittman said. “I think you’ll see both of them Saturday morning and they’ll be ready to go. But we’ve caught the ball well this week. We’ve cut down a little bit of practice this week simply because of numbers and because it’s later in the year. We would do that anyway. Not a lot but enough to try to save some legs and we’re down a little bit number-wise. But those two guys certainly have had good weeks, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in them.”
Knox and the other wide receivers will have senior Feleipe Franks to throw to them. He was injured against Florida and wore a glove on his left hand. Pittman deemed him ready to go.
“Yeah, he is,” Pittman said. “Really no complications with that hand. And he’s ready to go. Practiced every day this week.”
If the game is played on Saturday the kickoff will be at 11 a.m. in Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It will be televised on the SEC Network.